BBC Proms Review, The Guardian

Posted on July 22, 2009

Manchester Camerata’s appearance at the Proms reviewed in The Guardian

“In the first of Monday’s two Proms, Bernard Haitink led the London Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. It is often viewed as one of the composer’s “farewells” to life, stricken as he was with heart disease, marital and career problems and the loss of his four-year-old daughter. Yet, as with all Mahler’s works, the level of ambiguity is so high that its undeniably valedictory gestures are leavened with both relish for life’s beauty and consciousness of its ugliness. These interact with other responses to form a statement of huge emotional complexity. The miracle is that Mahler manages to hold it all together.

Haitink never sold its structure short. What was missing, in his characteristically classical reading, was a sense of the sheer extremity of the means employed to run the vast expressive gamut that makes the Ninth not just a great late-Romantic score but an equally great modern one. The playing was very fine, though, with the LSO brass on impregnable form.

In the evening’s second concert, Douglas Boyd and his Manchester Camerata delivered stylish performances of the orchestral contributions to two major works on the same theme: Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross, in his own choral arrangement, and James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross, commissioned by BBC television in 1994. Neither is entirely satisfactory. Haydn’s wordy version of what was originally a purely orchestral work dilutes its austere beauty, while MacMillan relies heavily on effects whose often redundant repetitions and occasional overkill sound more like the atmospheric accompaniment to missing visuals than the main event. But the BBC Singers gave flawlessly articulated and tonally refined accounts of both, under Boyd’s sentient direction”.

George Hall, The Guardian
Tuesday 21 July, 2009

To read this article on The Guardian website, click here.